State: Mississippi – MS

Published on August 18th, 2015 | by Brandon Ramsey in Geography


The Mississippi state abbreviation is MS, and it is also known for the river of the same name. These are just two facts among countless others that define this, one of the 50 U.S. States. The entire population of the state is only around 3 million people. Even the largest city, Jackson, has a mere 175,000 people.

Today we’ll take a look at the geography, climate, and history of this state. Before we do that however, we’ll look at some key informational points:

  • State capital: Jackson
  • Nickname(s): “The Magnolia State”, “The Hospitality State.”
  • Motto: “Virtute er Armis”
  • Highest point: Woodall Mountain (807 feet)
  • Admitted to the Union: December 10, 1817 (20th state)
  • Abbreviation: MS
  • Time Zone: Central UTC -6/-5 
  • State bird: Northern Mockingbird
  • Butterfly: Spicebush Swallowtail
  • Fish: Largemouth bass
  • Flower: Magnolia
  • Reptile: American alligator
  • State Flag
  • Official Website

map of mississippi in the United States

MS State Overview

The state’s name comes from the Mississippi River which flows along the western edge. The Ojibwe called it the “misi-ziibi” which means “Great River.” Besides the delta of the river, this area is high forested. The areas near the riverfront were cleared out during the antebellum area for cotton growing.

By the end of the 19th century, African Americans made up two-thirds of the property owners in the Delta. Timer and railroad companies purchased a large portion of the land. All of the clearing altered the ecology of the area which resulted in flooding throughout the area.

The state is largely rural and agricultural. It also has aquaculture farms which produce the majority of farm-raised catfish that is purchased and consumed in the U.S.

After the 1930s and an event known as the Great Migration, the state’s population has since been primarily white.  This event was fueled by the segregation and racism of the time. With violent attacks like lynching becoming more common, African American people looked to other places where new jobs were emerging.

The northeast was just the place, with plenty of schools and the ability for adult men to vote. Since 2011 MS has also been ranked as the most religious state in the nation.

map of Mississippi

Climate and Geography

In the north, the state is bordered by Tennessee, in the east is Alabama, and to the south is Louisiana and Arkansas. Along with the river that carries its namesake, there are also several other major rivers:

  • Big Black River
  • Pearl River
  • Yazoo River
  • Pascagoula River
  • Tombigbee River

The entire area is composed of lowlands with the highest point being Woodall Mountain at 807 feet above sea level. It is part of the East Gulf Coastal Plain which is composed of low hills, in addition to a mixture of yellow-brown loess soil and fertile black earth that extends into the region known as the Alabama Black Belt.

The coast has large bays and lakes. There is a separation from the Gulf of Mexico in the form of a shallow sound. The National Park Service manages several areas in the state including the following:

  • Brices Cross Roads National Battlefield Site
  • Gulf Islands National Seashore
  • Natchez National Historical Park
  • Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail
  • Natchez Trace Parkway
  • Tupelo National Battlefield
  • Vicksburg National Military Park and Cemetery

The climate here is classified as humid subtropical. This results in long summers and short winters that are mild overall. During the summer months, temperatures are usually around 81 degrees Fahrenheit and in the winter the temperature is 48 degrees Fahrenheit on average.

Late summer months are when the risk of hurricanes becomes more prevalent. They usually come in from the Gulf of Mexico and move inland. Hurricane Camille and Katrina were some of the most devastating storms to hit, killing 238 people in the case of the latter storm.

Each year Mississippi has around 27 tornadoes with the north seeing more than the south.

A Brief History of Mississippi

The first settlers in the American south arrived in 10,000 BC. These were Paleo-Indians to be precise, a people who were hunter-gatherers of the megafauna that still roamed the Earth at that time. Thousands of years went by as the peoples of the area continued to create a culture of rich and complex agriculture.

The first European explorer to set foot in the area was Hernando de Soto who passed through the state in 1540 during his second expedition to the new world. The first settlement was established by the French. Over the course of the 18th century, the area was ruled by the Spanish, French, and British.

After the American Revolution, Britain ceded the area to the United States of America. The Mississippi Territory first became organized on April 7, 1798. It became the 20th state on December 10, 1817. The first governor was David Holmes.

Plantations were built along the major rivers, offering easy access to transportation routes. During the 1850s, cotton became a huge crop, which resulted in the plantations owners becoming very wealthy. This led to more slaves and land being purchased during the time period.

By 1860, over 55% of the state’s population were slaves. Fewer than 1,000 African American people were considered “free.” This was the second state to secede from the Union on January 9, 1861. It was also one of the founding members of the Confederate States during the Civil War.

In the 1900s, over half of the population in the state was African Americans. This numbers soon fell starting in 1913 when the Great Migration occurred. Many of these people left to pursue work in industrialized cities to the north. They were hoping to find better jobs, schools, and better living overall.

Only recently has the state finally taken to repealing some of the old laws that were deemed unconstitutional. For example, the state repealed their ban on interracial marriage in 1987, over 20 years after the Supreme Court had ruled it unconstitutional in Virginia.

In addition, the state never technically ratified the 13th amendment to abolish slavery. They did so symbolically, but it wasn’t until 2013 that Ken Sullivan contacted the Secretary of State of Mississippi who agreed to make it official.

Final Thoughts

Now that you’ve brushed up on your knowledge, check out our list of Mississippi state facts to see what else is hiding from your view. You’ll find plenty of addition info there. Don’t forget to weigh in the comments though, tell us what you know about this place.

printable map of mississippi



About the Author
Brandon Ramsey

Brandon Ramsey is the head author and editor of The Time Now Blog. Be sure to follow us via social media!


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